It Starts with a Square

To Go Back To School or Not?

BY Regan Hewitt

On July 15th, Collierville Schools announced their reopening plan, but are parents (and students) ready to return to in-person schooling? Regardless of whether they’re ready or not, Collierville families have to make a decision by July 29th and submit it to the school.

Two days later, Selena Silvestro, administrator of the Collierville Tennessee Moms Facebook group and parents of two Collierville students, ran a poll, asking how parents were feeling with the various in-person and virtual schooling options, and which option they would pick. Garnering almost 400 votes in 24 hours, 65% of respondents were leaning toward enrolling for in-person schooling, 20% for virtual schooling and approximately 11% were still undecided. Additionally, 3% said they were considering homeschooling options, while 1% responded that they’re enrolling in area private schools.

In an interview with Main and Mulberry, Silvestro admitted that she is also on the fence about which option to choose. “There’s just a lot of questions right now, especially when it comes to, ‘What will the virtual program be like? What’s the online program really going to entail?’ So, I was curious. I’m on the fence. My husband and I are trying to decide what’s best for our kids. And every family is so different. Every family has different set of medical situation that they’re dealing with. They might be caring for somebody in their home, or very close to grandparents, or they might have children who have pre-existing conditions that make it more dangerous with this virus. So, it’s going to be what’s best for them, and I’m glad that Collierville Schools has worked very hard to come up with a plan that gives options,” she said.

“I think the main issues are safety and that the kids don’t lose any ground, that they keep moving forward,” said Monica Childress, Schilling Farms Elementary PTA President, who is also a member of both the West Collierville Middle and Collierville High Schools PTA and a parent of four Collierville students, in her interview with Main and Mulberry. “Now that we’re looking at a whole year ahead, we’re looking for as much information as we can to try and make the decisions we need to make, which are challenging.”

Childress said that while her discussions with elementary school parents have been split fairly evenly for preferences about virtual or in-person schooling, middle schoolers seem to be leaning more toward the virtual option, and high schoolers want to return to school in-person, both of which hold true for Childress’ and Silvestro’s own children. “You have to look at each individual child and trust that it’s going to work out,” said Childress, although she admitted her family is waiting for more information before they make any final decisions.

According to both Silvestro and Childress, many parents have expressed concerns about the online program selected by the school system, Edgenuity, as the program has mixed reviews online and there’s been a lack of details about that particular option. “Some of the parents were asking, ‘Is the virtual program a lower-quality program?’ So, are their children going to be behind and then have a hard time getting back on track with their peers, especially if it’s an honors course or AP or some of the higher learning courses. That’s one of the concerns I’ve been hearing,” said Silvestro.

Collierville Schools addressed these concerns, about the platform and about Collierville Virtual Academy (the virtual schooling option) in an extensive Q&A response on their website, specifically stating, “We have chosen [Edgenuity] as a supplemental, video-based resource for our students and teachers that choose the Collierville Virtual Academy. This platform is aligned with the Tennessee Academic Standards and allows for our own Collierville teachers, students and parents to monitor their students’ progress while completing activities and assignments.  All of our teachers will customize their individual programs for their students’ and class needs to ensure the alignment and pacing with our approved Collierville curriculum. Instruction will be provided daily in both a synchronous (live teacher) and an asynchronous (on their own schedule/pace) platform.”

Childress encouraged parents to have real discussions with their children before making any decisions. “With my kids, I told them what I assume each day would look like. So, for the virtual learning, I assume, that they would need to be on at certain times and that would be managed to some degree. We also talked about the ‘New Normal’ school being different. My older children would need to wear masks, and my elementary student would probably be in his classroom the entire day, including lunch. Just things that I think it’s important that they understand what that would look like so that they can make an educated decision,” she said.

“Ultimately, the parents dictate how this is going to be. If we are positive and we’re teaching our kids resilience and work, we make the decision, and we’re confident with it, then we can give our children more confidence, and if we don’t stress, they shouldn’t stress as much. So, we just got to stay positive,” said Silvestro.

Childress echoed this sentiment, saying, “I try to put a positive spin on things [to my kids]. Yes, I have my own concerns, but I don’t really want to let my kids know about those concerns at this point because we don’t have the answers. If you don’t have all the answers, it’s better to not get them worrying.”

On July 17th, Collierville Schools announced that it would move school orientation and registration to August 11th, with more details to come.

Further questions can be emailed to covid19@colliervilleschools.org, or specific questions about the Collierville Virtual Academy can be emailed to CVAcademy@colliervilleschools.org.

July/August 2020 Tour Collierville Magazine